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The Case for Everyday Ergonomics

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AUTHOR: Clay Moore, Mideast Regional Sales Manager, Ecore

The Architect Louis Sullivan wrote “form ever follows function.” At Ecore, we agree! “Function” drives the “form” that each of our surfaces takes. The thickness, density, and format of a floor is very important and should be influenced by the application in which it is intended to be installed. 

The ability to minutely tweak and adjust the form of our products gives Ecore a unique ability to create surfaces that address specific performance attributes, of which, I believe, one of the most important is ergonomics. In a world where people are using fitness wearables to track steps, activity, and health goals, why are we still walking around on polished concrete in large retail stores and brittle carpet tiles in the workplace?
Diagram that shows the different areas that a surface can apply force to a foot

People spend 8 hours (we can all try, right?) sleeping each night; and we all know the importance of finding a mattress that correctly supports the body and provides the optimal environment for restful sleep. And yet little thought is given to the surfaces that we all interact with during the other 16 hours we are awake and on our feet. I believe the three main areas that are either forgotten, downplayed, or under-utilized, when it comes to ‘everyday’ ergonomics, are the workplace, retail stores, and fitness environments.

Whether someone is standing behind a checkout counter, working a 12-hour-shift in a hospital or healthcare facility, or traversing the floors of a skyscraper in Manhattan, we can all agree that a lot of energy and time is spent on our feet at the workplace. 
Overhead view of a pharmacy with Ecore floors

For a pharmacist,, lab technician, or nurse, ergonomics is not a “nice to have,” it is a must; and, Ecore is helping to drive meaningful change in the health, wellness, and service industries. Essential workers – healthcare personnel, teachers, and those in the service industries – simply deserve a better surface to stand on while they work, not to mention that better staff ergonomics can benefit companies on multiple levels. Some benefits of an ergonomic surface include better employee retention, reduced staff fatigue resulting in better quality of care and service provided, and lower injury rates resulting in reduced workplace injury claims.

So, what about the rest of us who need a more balanced surface to pair with our standing desk? Or those of us that want to have more energy at the end of the day to deposit into that scheduled workout? Unfortunately, corporate America is a little slower to catch on and, rarely, are performance surfaces ever considered for everyday office spaces. However, as workplace design continues to skew the “open concept” with an importance on “flex space,” the need for ergonomics will only grow. What a great way for companies to put their money where their mouths are regarding improving employee wellness and work-life balance. 

Having worked in the retail design industry before I came to Ecore, I often joke that the retail industry has a polished concrete obsession. I certainly understand why from a cost, ease of maintenance, and construction standpoint; polished concrete has become the standard in both big box retail, boutique retail, and even the restaurant landscape. Though the look is on trend, the data shows that there is little to no ergonomic benefit from concrete, even long-distance runners choose to run on asphalt for its slightly softer properties.
Ecore floors are visible in a retail sports store
My charge is for retailers to identify areas of stores where performance really matters and to deliver a better surface for shoppers and staff alike. This could be as simple as utilizing a softer, safer floor in entryways or as complex as installing a multi-purpose floor for a flex area (think yoga classes at Lululemon). As the retail industry becomes more and more about in-store experiences, there are many opportunities to utilize performance surfaces where customer interactions are happening – something like an athlete trying out footwear in a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store. 

Perhaps the most advanced area, when it comes to putting performance first, is the fitness environment. It is well known that there is clear data pertaining to how flooring is vital to personal health and wellness in a fitness space. Ergonomics is much more than how flooring feels underfoot or how comfortable it is on your tailbone while doing sit ups. It is very important to examine a surface’s force reduction and energy restitution properties force reduction and energy restitution properties before selecting it for a space.

Ecore floors are visible in a fitness center
Thousands of reps and repetitive motion is taxing enough on the body; but correctly pairing the fitness activity type with the proper surface is vital to preventing injury and for fine tuning the efficiency of a training routine. Doing box jumps on a concrete surface vs. one with a vulcanized composition rubber backing, such as ECOfit, could be the difference between a repetitive hip injury and having toned quads. 

So, in the end, it all adds up! In a time when personal health is on everyone’s mind, something as simple as better ergonomics can have a lasting effect. Ending the day with more energy, suffering less from chronic pain or injury, and see more gains in the gym is more important than if your new office really nailed the “modern industrial’ aesthetic,” right? I certainly think so. To learn more about the acoustic, safety and ergonomic surfaces Ecore provides visit Ecore Commercial.